Last year some 647 million air travelers – more than a quarter of the 2.2 billion passengers who flew worldwide – flew in Asia, compared to the 638 million air travelers in North America.
By 2013, an additional 217 million travelers are expected to fly within Asia which will make the region about one-third of the world market.
The figures suggest that this swing will continue. In the US there are three aircraft seats per year for each of the 300 million people who live there. In China the figure is 0.3 seats and in India it is 0.1 seats. So there is massive room for expansion.
Asia is home to two of the five most profitable airlines in the world. Yet, at the same time, there are many carriers in great difficulty. In the first quarter of this year, governments have already provided over $10 billion in bailouts to Asian airlines.
Asian airlines who are expected to see their losses shrink from $3.4 billion last year to $700 million this year. An example: China Eastern Airlines Chairman Liu Shaoyong has said he expects the company’s passenger volume to grow over 20% in 2010.
Bay Area Trvel Writers explains this turnaround by pointing out that globally, developed countries’ economies are down 10% from last year. Asia, with the exception of Japan, is up 13%.